The previous day was a classic southwesterly storm that we’d seen far too many of this 2019/2020 winter season here in Hokkaido. 90km/h winds, damp snow. We went out for a ski anyway, making it almost to the treeline on the northerly side of the ridge up Bozu-yama (route overview here, from a couple of seasons back). It was nice to get out, but the snow was average.
Overnight, however, the temperatures dropped, and Horokanai was back to its cold, dry best. At Kiritachi Pass, the snow was cold, dry, and powdery. With all that new snow over the last couple of days, we were happy to see two splitboarders starting off from the carpark just as we were arriving. We would happily use their skin track most of the way to the summit.
We dug a pit on the westerly slope we planned to ski from the summit on. The previous few days had seen new snow and strong winds from the east, and we wanted to make sure the gorgeous-looking western slopes were safe to ski. A compression test suggested we were good to go – there was only a very slight movement on a 30cm barely-there layer on the 8th thwack from the shoulder. Everything was well and truly the right way up.
The first ski down was euphoric. Beautifully spaced trees. Consistent angle. Amazing new snow on a good consolidated base. A nice flat-ish run-out at the bottom of the slow. Everyone was buzzing.
I set the skin track back up to the summit. It was deep snow, but not too deep as to make the steep zig-zags too taxing.
The second lap was further to the skier’s left of the first. This gave us a longer run, but it wasn’t quite as consistent a gradient. Here and there were fun lumps and bumps, giving shots of steep bits here and there.
Lower down now than our original ski track up to the peak, I cut a long climbing traverse back to the skin track, and then quietly congratulated myself for such a nice escalator-like skin track for the return.
We had a long drive back to Sapporo ahead of us, so we left it at two laps. We still had the final downhill from near the summit, parallel to the skin track to enjoy.
I had a hunch that we might be able to have a nice long downhill run, without having to go back along the cramped spur we’d climbed up on at the start of the route. We might be able to skin up one of the steep gully walls, was my reasoning. Clearly the splitboarders had the same idea, as we ended up following their tracks all the way to a gully floor. Once again we were happy to be following in their footsteps, as breaking trail while making a climbing traverse round these gullies would have been hard work.
The actual route we took is at the very top of the GPS track in the embed below.
On the way back to Sapporo we dropped in at Chippubetsu Onsen (秩父別温泉, location, 500yen). It was a 1.5hr drive, but it was our only option on the way back to Sapporo, as the Seiwa Onsen in Horokanai was closed till April 2020 for renovation work.